Scottish Landscape Photographer of the Year 2016 commended
Scottish Landscape Photographer of the Year 2016 commended

A couple of years ago I wandered up Blaven, the wonderful rocky outlier of the Cuillin mountains on the Isle of Skye, with the intention of camping on the summit. The walk to the top was cold, wet and clagged in with a biting north west wind. However, the west face of the mountain sheltered my small tent as it sent the cold blasts soaring above the summit and I spent a peaceful night in the company of the ravens.

When I awoke the next morning the world was transformed and I ran around like a dafty, barefoot, with a pot of porridge and coffee on the go, as the sun rose and warmed the best mountain range in Britain. I watched the ravens play in the cold clear air, ptarmigan begin to wear their winter white plumage and a tiny shrew leap around the rocks in search of food. It was a magical morning.

Although it had been a dreich ascent, I’d managed to capture an image of the Red Cuillin emerging from the ragged remnants of grey cloud blown in from the Atlantic. The light on Garbh Bheinn and Sgurr nan Each was splendid, although it didn’t last long. Another icy blast came in and I retired to the tent not long after for a long quiet evening of listening to music and the stillness of the mountain night.

Fast forward a couple of years and I noticed the Scottish Landscape Photographer of the Year 2016 competition was still inviting entries. Just. So I entered a small portfolio and thought nothing more about it. A couple of months later I received an email saying I’d been shortlisted in the landscape category. I fell off my seat!

Finally, the news arrived. My photograph of the Red Cuillin emerging from the wilds of an Atlantic storm had been commended by the judges and had earned a place in the book. I was humbled indeed. My wee camera had done me proud.

I’d spotted the potential in the landscape but the lighting was difficult. The camera has a trick up its sleeve however. It has exposure and focus lock, both at the same time. I’d been using this technique for years with this camera. Roughly frame the scene, then move the camera around until a lock on the exposure creates what I decide to be the ‘correct’ exposure for my interpretation of the image. I always make sure there are enough focus areas chosen in the correct part of the image, otherwise I’ll repeat the process until everything is spot on. At that point, I’ll recompose with exposure and focus locked and the camera does its job. The result this time was a commended image.

This was in the days before I began my DSLR journey and I return to my wee point and shoot all the time. It’s a Sony Cybershot DSC-HX9V, 16MP with a 24mm lens that zooms to x16. The low light noise reduction is terrible, rendering shadows as smudged watercolours but when you get the right conditions, it really excels.

So thank you little camera. We’ve been through many a winter storm. I’ve taken you out of your pouch on rock and ice climbs, in terrible weather, in baking sun and dry dusty windless deserts and you’re still going. Of course, I have to ‘previsualise’ in the first place, to paraphrase the great Ansel Adams but after that, it’s really up to me as a photographer to turn my vision into reality using the equipment I have at the time.

The commended image as available to buy as a print from my online shop.